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Bills’ focus may lean back to running game

Very quickly, very ruthlessly, Tom Brady silenced 70,000-plus fans. One dart at a time, the New England Patriots quarterback made a mockery of the Guinness World Records, which was visiting Ralph Wilson Stadium.

But it didn’t have to be this way.

After running the ball down the Patriots’ throats, the Bills then dropped back to pass on 10 of their next 13 plays. And this came one week after coach Rex Ryan tried tapping the brakes on his “Ground and Pound” reputation, saying he never used those words and that with the Bills’ talent at receiver, they wouldn’t be “as one dimensional as people think.” Passing too much, however, backed this Tyrod Taylor-led offense into a corner they couldn’t escape against New England.

Sept. 23 is a tad premature to label this a full-fledged identity crisis but the Bills would probably benefit from a more run-heavy, smashmouth offensive attack.

Young QB. LeSean McCoy. Reconfigured offensive line. Loaded defense. It makes sense.

Take it from running back Boobie Dixon, who repeats that it’s “very important” for Buffalo to lean on the run.

“We’re going to have to really run the ball so we can keep Tom Brady off the field,” Dixon said. “You saw what he just did. He just put up 40 points on one of the best defenses in the league and carved them up like a high school team. So we need to run the ball. I know the best defense – I’m no expert – but I think the best defense for Tom Brady is putting him on the sideline. And that’s running the ball, methodically, eating the clock up.”

Instead, five straight three-and-out’s doomed the Bills’ offense in a Week 2 game with postseason-level hype.

And those drives ended with third and 9, third and 10, third and 9, a third-and-2 sack and a third-and-3 overthrow – not ideal for a first-year starting quarterback. In San Francisco, offensive coordinator Greg Roman ran the ball 53 percent of the time in 2012 and 55 percent in 2013, but didn’t stick with what worked this day.

As Dixon says, players have no control over such a decision on game day. But he adds that players have full confidence in “G-Ro.” The coordinator’s door is always open to suggestions, ideas, anything from players.

So this would be one. Dixon believes the loss could be “a lesson” – he expects the team to run plenty in Miami.

“We need this,” he said. “It’s time for everybody to dig in and we’ve got to run the rock. We’re not taking ‘no’ for an answer this week. … Just judging from the game plan this week, I think we might be trying to go run heavy. I don’t know. I would hope so.”

Of course, LeSean McCoy is central to anything the Bills do on the ground. Through his 89 yards on 15 carries, he sure looked healthy.

Buffalo is staying cautious with McCoy’s hamstring, monitoring his workload on game day and then resting him on Wednesday.

“We actually did well with the running game,” McCoy said. “Hit them in the mouth early. It just sucks because a couple times, they did stop us it was more us. And the score took the running game out, I should say. We wanted to run the ball but we were down so much that we had to throw the ball. Even when we did run a couple of plays, we were right there. We’re right there. We’re close.”

That’s partly true. In the second half, the Bills were forced to play catch-up. Still, Buffalo put a lot on Taylor’s shoulders early. McCoy says that, “for sure,” he can handle more than 15 carries but that there’s no need to with Karlos Williams and Dixon around.

In time, the Bills must figure out what they are on offense.

Sammy Watkins, Charles Clay, Robert Woods and Percy Harvin are a potent quartet of receiving threats, yet there’s still an infrastructure here to run the ball 50-60 percent of the time.

Dixon believes that should be the team’s identity.

“I know we’ve got explosive playmakers all over the field and we spent a lot of money on them,” Dixon said, “but we also have a stable of running backs who can play in this league and can keep the chains moving and their explosive quarterback off the field. Almost everybody has one, so the more we can keep them on the sideline, the better.”

And if the Bills do start to lean on McCoy, Williams and Dixon? If they become the focal point?

His eyes light up.

“Oh man. We could eat ’em up,” Dixon said. “I feel like we could come out with 300 yards rushing. ‘Shady’ can run. Karlos can run. I can run. It’s just when you get into those situations where you fall behind, then you take guys like me out of the game. Now, we’re not in a power game. Now, we’re in two-minute trying to catch back up.

“I think the defense likes when we’re out there and we’re road-grading and we’re letting them get that rest and they’re feeding off that and then they go out there and eat. If we get back to that, our whole team will look good.”

So maybe this is the major adjustment for Miami.

Dixon likes what he’s hearing in the meeting room.

Said the back, “I think we’ll get back to what we do this week.”


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